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digital doubles

digital doubles

When Is Our 3D Scanning Job Complete?

We just finished a complex scanning job that involved several large elements – all to be 3D scanned on stage using Lidar Scanners – within one day.

We were asked to scan all of the elements immediately because one of the sets was scheduled to be immersed in a water tank, which would make it difficult and possibly more time consuming to scan later.

lidar scan of building

To complete this job, we needed to coordinate not just our scanning schedule and professional photo session, but also plan around the various painters, the special effects crew, the riggers, the grip and electric crews, and the production department – all of whom also needed access to the same elements in order to meet their own deadlines.

Naturally, the crew’s workflow constantly changed, so we had to work around these shifting schedules; however, because we were well prepared, and had carefully coordinated with each of the various department heads, we were able to successfully scan all of the required objects within a normal day’s schedule.

lidar scan, building scan, large area scan

For TNG, it’s not just about creating an exceptional 3D scan, but it’s also about accommodating our client and their own schedules throughout the entire process. We keep our clients continuously updated on the progress of each stage of cleanup and texturing. Our job is complete when our customers walk away with a smile and the satisfaction that the project was accomplished not just professionally, but also as smoothly as possible.

Where’s your closest TNG location?

tng vfx locations

We welcome your feedback! Comment on our blog or visit our Facebook page.

Building 3D Character

There are three components to creating a great life-like 3D character. The first component is making sure the character design itself looks realistic. The second component is the full body animation and seeing how it moves – whether it’s stiff, jerky, ill-timed, or even too smooth like an astronaut on the moon. In working with live action, the character needs to have fluid movement to match that of a live character. The third component is facial animation, which is nearly always the giveaway. The facial performance needs to be strong because we know what faces look like and interact with them every day. It’s easy to comprehend a person’s emotion by looking at their face, but in 3D that must be created. It’s not difficult to land in the ‘uncanny valley’ with the dead flat eyes with a thousand yard stare and lower forehead. But as a VFX community, we’re getting closer to mastering this.


Melika as a fully rendered image in high resolution

Building a 3D character can be done in several ways. The quickest way, and which is now becoming the most acceptable method, is to use 3D scanning. The dimensions that come from a 3D scan are accurate, saving a character artist more time to develop the final look of the model. The overall structure of the body and the look of the skin all need to look like a real person. From the hair to the cyber clothing, every part needs to flow naturally. The real life character and the virtual character need to make a person wonder which is which. It shouldn’t even be a question. All elements on the screen should look real – right out of our world – and not polygons or pixels.


When using a motion capture system to create and capture the movement of a character, the only decision to make is to find a system you feel best serves your needs and your budget. As time goes on the prices will fall as more and more characters are done this way. There are systems on the market if all you need is a simple walk or run, however, in most cases there is a need for custom movement that will go through current pipelines using a standard like Autodesk MotionBuilder. This industry has had some vast improvements over the last years, especially with movies like Avatar and The Lord of the Rings. It was a combination of technology and talent that allowed the Mocap movements to translate so well into the final result.

The last piece is the facial performance capture. If not done correctly, the upper part of the face (dead eyes or a low forehead) could give it all away. It takes time and talent to get this right, not to mention the cost. Now that we’re offering full body motion capture systems and services, our next stop on the road will be facial performance capture. Naturally all this technology blends together to create 3D effects that look entirely real.

Good luck in 2015 to all of you on your search for the best and most cost effective service that meets your delivery times, and gives you the product you need.

Where’s your closest TNG location?

tng vfx locations

We welcome your feedback! Comment on our blog or visit our Facebook page.

The Process Behind 3D Scanning & Processing Data

There are clear cut differences between 3D scanning a human character and a hard surface object. When 3D scanning an object, you will receive precise and accurate measurements because an object does not move. A person, however, cannot remain entirely motionless which results in creating an alternate way of 3D scanning a human to locally obtain tight alignments that provide good measurements. Larger objects require larger 3D scanners or at least larger 3D volume boxes, which are calibrated for their size, and thus a smaller 3D volume box has less chance for incongruities.

3d scanned sunglasses

To begin with the process of 3D scanning an object, reference pictures are first taken which aid the 3D modeler, 3D texture artist, and during final QC (Quality Check) to make sure the 3D object matches the real life counterpart. After the object is 3D scanned (sometimes multiple scans are needed), the scan data is aligned and fused together. A good alignment requires some pre-requisite factors such as having overlapping data and choosing intelligent places to start and stop scans as well as the angle of the scanner at the time of the scanning. Once the 3D scan technician acknowledges they have as close to 100% coverage as feasibly possible, the scan is complete and can be processed.

3d scanning before & after

Processing the data can take a longer or shorter time depending on the resolution needed. The higher the resolution you work with in 3D, the slower the process. It’s much easier to work with 5,000 to 500,000 polygons versus 5 million to 50 million polygons. In fact, when working at such high resolutions, decimation (or multiple) must take place (and at the right time within the process). Once the scan data is processed and decimation has been executed, the 3D modeler can begin their work. With the use of the images captured from the professional photo shoot, along with a perfect silhouette and scale of the item provided by the 3D scan, the modeler will 3D model out the many components and unwrap the geo for the 3D texture artist.

lidar scanned vehicle, 3d scanning

The texture artist then paints the object (or projects images) as well as paint seams of where the UV coordinates were cut. The completed texture is given back to the 3D modeler who will bring out further detail through sculpting. As the model is finished off, the normal maps and displacement maps are generated. These maps provide multiple ways for the 3D model to be viewed; taxing the render engine less and proving a higher quality result.


Where’s your closest TNG location?

tng vfx locations

We welcome your feedback! Comment on our blog or visit our Facebook page.

Mark Kolpack Talks Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Working in VFX

As a VFX Supervisor working in television, it often requires the ability to think very quickly due to lack of time and much smaller budgets while still delivering feature level work for television.  On my current show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I’m now producing Visual Effects that have to compliment and hold up to its counter part and big brother, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   That is a tall order when it comes to television, but one that I love since it challenges me to create visuals that push the art and technology farther than previously thought possible.

Agents of Shield 2
The work that we produce is complex in nature and is always evolving.  It ranges from environmental augmentation using matte paintings to digital doubles for our cast members and guest actors to fluid and FX based simulations, as well as our 1964 Corvette named Lola, the C-17 Bus, Quinjet, Deathlok, Nano Copters, and a whole host of one-off based assets.

Agents of SHIELD_Lola
One of the our commonly used techniques is our Digital Doubles.  I began using them back in 2006 on Heroes at a time when this type of asset was limited to feature films. Back then almost everyone thought I was either crazy for trying it or it was just not possible, but that did not stop me.  Well it did work and the relationship that began with Nick Tesi and his team back then is still going strong today.

TNG is my main vendor for my actor scans and they too improve their techniques to help their clients to produce better and more realistic doubles that will hold up to close scrutiny.  TNG understands my schedule and tight turnarounds and gets my cleaned up geo and the textures ready within a few days of actors being scanned.  This is huge to me considering the additional work that then has to go into the models once I get them over to my VFX house. Having this type of partnership is vital for me and TNG pulls it off time and time again.


Where’s your closest TNG location?

tng vfx locations

We welcome your feedback! Comment on our blog or visit our Facebook page.

Who Governs the Cyber Character?

There’s been controversy in the film industry over using cyber characters in a movie, or to finish filming using a cyber character if the talent passes away. We have been talking about insurance 3D scanning to insure a film will make it to the end in spite of interruptions or physical challenges. Most investors and those committed to a film or project will not easily accept defeat and allow the project to be shut down.


The passing of Paul Walker caught us all by surprise and we feel fortunate that we had the chance to meet and scan him for the film “Into the Blue.” He was delightful to work with; a great guy with a great attitude. As the filming continues for Fast and Furious, the need for 3D scan data is essential to finish the film. From a studio or producer’s point of view, anything can happen during post, and at some point they may start looking for a 3D scan of an actor because it is either too hard to get the talent back to the set, or too expensive, or both.

paul walker

This is the purpose of our insurance scanning, to have a digital double fill in with the occasional front shots. As technology gets better, it will be more feasible and more accessible. You will not pay to process your talent unless you need them. This keeps your cost down and you will have access to the talent, if needed. Win, Win!


We are always looking for new ways to improve this process for production. We have scanned several actors in the past during pre-production, prior to principal photography, which is less stressful and there is no rush. The actors can also go to the scanning studio at their leisure to be scanned.

Where’s your closest TNG location?

tng vfx locations

We welcome your feedback! Comment on our blog or visit our Facebook page.